Local tombstone company investigated over consumer fraud claims

 A century-old local monument company is accused of leaving dozens of grieving families without closure and their loved ones in unmarked graves

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A century-old local monument company is accused of leaving dozens of grieving families without closure and their loved ones in unmarked graves.

The company says they’re not to blame, all while NBC 5 Responds has learned the allegations have attracted the attention of prosecutors.

To Kris Greene of Deerfield, each passing month amplifies her grief.

“This is where my father's headstone should be placed,” said Greene, while showing NBC 5 Responds a patch of grass at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines. “As you can see, the sods already growing over. It's been over a year.”

Greene’s Dad Don Dorsch passed away in April 2022, but in the 18 months since his passing, Dorsch’s grave is overgrown and still unmarked.

“I feel like I'm on this Hula Hoop of grief that I can't get off because I want to put my dad to rest,” said Greene.

Donald Dorsch, pictured, died in April 2022. His daughter, Kris Greene, has been waiting for his grave marker for more than a year. Courtesy: Kris Greene.

Greene trusted Gast monuments, a business with a 140-year legacy in Chicago, to create her dad’s gravestone.

The company is supposed to be a one-stop shop for grave markers: customers pay Gast to design, build and deliver grave monuments to the cemetery. When you buy with Gast, you also pay an installation fee that is supposed to go to the cemetery.

Greene ordered her dad’s gravestone through Gast last August, and it was supposed to be delivered this spring.
But that delivery date came and went, with no follow up.

“I kept following up-‘are we still on track?’ and I would get these excuses such as, ‘It's really bad weather, the cemeteries …won’t let us install’ or ‘the stone's on backorder’,” said Greene.

The Greene family isn’t alone.

NBC 5 Responds has spoken to seven families who have been waiting, in some cases, up to two years, for their memorials after paying Gast monuments thousands of dollars. Emails show their delivery dates came and went, with nothing to show for what they paid for.

“I kept pursuing, calling, emailing. And eventually Katie Gast just stopped contacting me,” said Greene.

Katie Gast, the 6th generation owner of Gast monuments, says the company is doing its best to fill orders.

“I know that we're doing the right thing,” said Gast in a video interview with NBC 5 Responds last week.

Gast acknowledges she has more than three dozen customers who are waiting for her to deliver monuments that have already been paid for.

But she says she’s not to blame. NBC 5 Responds asked Gast what is behind the delays in delivering monument.

“It's an amazing issue that's taking place all over the country,” said Gast.

Gast says Catholic cemeteries are to blame for her company’s delays.

She says the cemeteries keep changing their delivery and payment rules because they are trying to put her out of business.

But the Archdiocese of Chicago, which runs the cemeteries, says they have no record for most of the missing orders, and haven’t received payment for any of them either.

And on top of that, they contend Gast owes them $22,000 for previous installations.

“We probably have about 50 families that have called us and said that they placed an order for a memorial with Gast and ‘where is it?’ In most cases, we had no record of them,” said Ted Ratajczyk, Executive Director for Catholic Cemeteries.

Case and point: Greene and her family paid Gast in full last August, but the church has no record or payment from her order.

It’s the same story as several families who’ve complained.

“I think she's just taking all of these families for a ride, just taking their money,” said Greene.

Gast told us they have 29 monuments they hope to schedule deliver for soon. She even sent us a picture of several of them in her warehouse.

Monuments awaiting delivery at Gast Monuments Warehouse. Courtesy: Katie Gast

But many families have since turned to law enforcement for help.

NBC 5 Responds found the Illinois Attorney General’s office has received 13 similar consumer complaints about Gast in the past year.

And this past June, an email obtained by NBC Chicago shows Gast monuments was under investigation by the cook county state’s attorney’s consumer fraud division.

A spokesperson for the office confirmed it has “received information related to this matter and is currently reviewing to determine any next steps.”

To date, no charges have been filed against Gast or any of her employees

“I think we owe our customers the commitment to the betterment of this industry,” said Gast in a video interview with NBC 5 Responds.

NBC 5 Responds asked Gast if the families impacted by her company’s delayed were interested in “the industry” or if they simply wanted a memorial to honor their deceased loved ones.

“My take would be that they don't want anybody to experience this same experience that they've had. I lay my head down on my pillow at night and know that we're fighting for what's right,” said Gast.

“I don't know how she sleeps at night. No one should go through this during such a traumatic moment in their life,” said Greene.

Greene ended up paying another monument company for her father’s monument and she’s now waiting for a refund from Gast, along with several other families.

The archdiocese tells us: just this week Gast has finally submitted paperwork to get some memorials installed but Gast still has not paid them what she owes.

Gast says she expects her delivery backlog will be at least 65% resolved by the week's end. 

Gast encourages all customers to contact their help line for updates on orders. Call or text 847-868-4230.

Statement from Gast Monuments, August 15, 2023
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